Image of "renter" who's checking out a "for rent" sign

The notion that individual credit ratings agencies would begin to count people's track records as reliable renters of their homes and apartments is widely regarded as a good thing.

Forbes staffer Lauren Gensler looks at how initiatives to properly account for successful rent payment history are making progress among the credit bureaus--Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. She explores some of the impediments, including the huge fragmentation in the apartment industry, which makes tracking rent payments to smaller landlords exceedingly difficult. What's more, there are cases where tenants withhold payments as a lever to resolve a building or apartment issue that may need attention. Gensler writes:

In some cases, only positive information will ever show up. For instance, Experian currently only includes positive rent information on credit reports. However, TransUnion will include both positive and negative information and Equifax is exploring doing the same. According to TransUnion, if you fall behind in paying your rent, suddenly the balance of what you owe your landlord will show up as a debt. This differs from the past when failing to make rent altogether might eventually wind up on your reports (perhaps because it went into collections), but paying late wouldn’t. Now, with rent reporting, missteps would show up more quickly and with less fanfare.

Some consumer advocates say this could be problematic if someone has a leaky faucet, for instance, and they want to withhold rent so the landlord will come and fix it. Suddenly their credit is on the line. It could also be troublesome for someone who loses their job, for example, and has trouble paying rent. Now that information can be viewed by a potential employer.
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